April 2016

Bolivia’s Endangered Species

Bolivia has some of the most diverse and rare ecosystems in the world, leading to many species of animals being endemic to Bolivia. However, like around most of the world, human activity has threatened their survival. I explored these amazing creatures and what can be done to prevent their extinction.

By: Daniel Junor
Projects Abroad Volunteer
Wales Powys - United Kingdom


Amazon Rain Forest
Photo by: Matt Zimmerman

The first amazing creature is the Cochabamba grass mouse (Akodon siberiae). This mouse is very small rodent and noted by the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s red list (IUCN) as being near threatened. One of the main reasons for this rating is that the extent of its habitat does not exceed 30,000 square kilometers. This is decreasing due to the decline of its cloud forest habitat. The Cochabamba grass mouse is exclusive to Cochabamba’s cloud forest areas and can be found between the elevation of 1,833 and 3,075 meters above sea level.


Mountain Finch bird
Photo by: Martin Jambon

‘The danger level of the Amazon is near threatened after being vulnerable in 1996’

The danger of the Amazon

Danger to the rain forest means danger to the Cochabamba field mouse. According to Rainforest Mongabay, the Amazon rain forest is cleared for cattle pasture alongside the building of a major road. This puts its existence under pressure. So far, there has been no large scale impact from deforestation on its population. In fact, the danger level of the Amazon is changed to near threatened after it was vulnerable in 1996. However, continued deforestation in Bolivia will lead to a return, because its numbers are decreasing. As there are more endangered species, so far little action has been taken to protect the Cochabamba field mouse species. Luckily, it is present in the National Park of Amboró and Carrasco. Fortunately for the Cochabamba grass mouse, Bolivia is one of the world’s leaders in attempting rainforest reservation. As long as these efforts continue, the future should be safe.

Mountain finch

The next danger is the Cochabamba mountain finch (Compsospiza garleppi). This is a 17-centimeter small bird that is endangered according to the red list. As with the grass mouse, its habitat of a small area is a main reason for its rating. However, the mountain finch lives within a 3,800 square kilometer area. The bird’s habitat is very restricted, residing solely on the mountainous slopes surrounding the city of Cochabamba. The fluctuation of the height of its habitat is less than that of the grass mouse as it has only been found between 2,700 and, 3900 meters above sea level. The exact extent is still unknown. These numbers have lowered significantly, yet further studies are needed to track its exact extent. The expansion of Cochabamba is a major factor in its decline as land is being taken over for agriculture. This has replaced its preferred habitat.


Water frog
Photo by: Irene Mel

‘The water frogs’ biggest threat is the loss and fragmentation habitat’

Water frog

Finally, the Cochabamba water frog (Telmatobius Sibiricus) is listed as endangered, as it is only found within five locations in a 5,000 square kilometer radius. According to the Amphibians’ research, the frog is also found in the cloud forests of Cochabamba along its rivers and roadside ditches, as with the Grass mouse, the water frogs’ biggest threat is the loss and fragmentation of habitat. It is also threatened by water pollution, an aquatic problem along with growing concerns. According to the Australian government, this frog was first discovered in 1993, Queensland, Australia. The frog has a disease that affects the keratin containing layers of amphibian skin. As the infection worsens, the osmotic regulation fails and electrolyte blood levels drop leading to a cardiac arrest. Despite the country’s good luck so far, action needs to be taken to prevent any further spread of this disease.

The consistent loss of habitat

The consistent loss of habitat is the next biggest issue facing the amphibian population in Bolivia. Bolivia has seen its rainforest area shrink dramatically, especially in the Santa Cruz department. Over 70% of the 204,294 hectares of deforestation in 2012 occurred in this area. Santa Cruz’s mass deforestation was originally driven by the demand for sugar and cotton in the 70s but increased in the 90s with the need of land for cattle rearing and soy cultivation. A species that is threatened by this is cochranella nola. This species lives exclusively in Santa Cruz’s rainforests. It is currently listed as being threatened due to lack of assessments. Its loss of habitant means it would now more likely be classified as vulnerable. That is not to say that efforts and progress have not been made already. The disturbing loss of habitat led to collaborative efforts by the Bolivian government and U.S. Agency for international Development to launch the BOLFOR project in 1993. This project protects Bolivian diversity.

Pesticides and pollution

Along with habitat loss, pesticides and pollution are the next biggest man-made threat to amphibians. Pesticides can be extremely dangerous to amphibians. Negative impacts include delayed metamorphosis, sex reversal, and sometimes death. Unfortunately for this amphibian, the Bolivian population has the highest growth rate of pesticide imports in all Latin America for the last five (5) years. The government, under guidance of an independent group, has banned the sale of 14 pesticides. However, this has changed little as four (4) of the banned substances are still for sale throughout the country, and 30% of all imported pesticides are smuggled. It is clear that more is needed to be done to stop pesticide use in Bolivia. Pollution continues to cripple the amphibian population worldwide. In Bolivia, the Titicaca water frog is under threat from rapidly polluted waters from Lake Titicaca. Recently, a mix of pollution and a fungal disease caused mass mortalities among the Titicaca frog population in April 2015, as hundreds of dead frogs were found. After further inspection in October, the Bolivian Amphibian initiative found frogs in the Lago Mayor. Although the population was smaller, there were no frogs found in the Lago Menor. It is clear that pollution is causing livablehabitats for the frogs in the lake to decrease, a concern for the future of the pecies. Efforts have to be made to keep the water safe for the frogs as further pollution could lead to their extinction.

Culinary consumption

Adding to the endangerment of frogs, the worldwide culinary market for these animals has grown. Frog leg consumption is in the rise around the world, especially in the U.S., where consumption from 1995 through 2005 has tripled. However, the sale of frogs as pets is not better for the world’s amphibian population. Of the millions of frogs that are shipped from one country to another, 45% will die within the first ten days. As previously mentioned, it also heightens the risks of diseases being spread.

Bolivia arguably has the world’s most unique biodiversity. Yet this is under threat predominantly from the effects of human activity. Protecting these ecosystems will not be easy, yet the species that inhabit them are a part of Bolivia and more should be done to ensure their continued existence.

Sources www.birdlife.org/datazone/speciesfactsheet.php?id=9500 www.environment.gov.au/system/files/resources/279bf387-09e0-433f-8973- 3e18158febb6/files/c-disease_1.pdf www.nature.org/ourinitiatives/regions/southamerica/bolivia/explore/bolivia-sustainableforest- management-project.xml

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